When I’m not watching TV or movies (or writing about watching TV and movies), I can often be found reading. I know, shocking, right? A writer who likes to read! Revolutionary. But seriously, if I don’t have any other significant responsibilities, I can often read two-to-three books in a given week. (Or, at least, two-to-three good books. Good is an important element to the whole operation.) That number goes up even more in the summertime, when long car/train/airplane rides and trips to the beach require wifi-free entertainment. So I thought I’d compile five(ish) of my favorite pop culture-focused books from the last several years for you to peruse and enjoy next time you have a day at the beach, or a day inside on the couch. I don’t know your life.
1) “Live From New York: The Complete Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests” by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales
In case it wasn’t glaringly obvious by my semi-regular posts about “SNL,” I’m a huge fan. I just find it so fascinating; the origins, the development, the week-to-week process that keeps the show going, the behind the scenes gossip: the whole shebang. And this book covers it all and then some. It’s essentially an oral history of the entire run of the show and features commentary from just about everyone you would want to hear from on the subject. The page count (800, to be exact) might seem daunting for a summer read, but the conversational style of the writing keeps it fast-paced an exciting. Plus, it’s all about “SNL.” There’s nothing about that show that’s boring.
I just realized how insane it is that I have yet to really talk about my love of Mindy Kaling on this blog. She’s one of my top heroes and dream best friends (right up there with Tina Fey and Rashida Jones) and I’m a big ‘ol fan of basically every big thing she’s done, from her time on “The Office” to “The Mindy Project.” Since my chances of meeting her and actually becoming her friend in real life are extremely slim, her books, a collection of memoir-like essays and other fun pieces, are about as close as I’ll probably get. Kaling’s voice is evident and clear throughout both “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and “Why Not Me?” and it makes both books feel like you’re just having a conversation with a good friend. I know I said at the top that I was only going to list five books, but these two should basically be a package deal. Get into it.
3) “The Secret Life of the American Musical: How Broadway Shows Are Built” by Jack Viertel
If you, like me, want an inside track into the various formulas and themes that are ever-present in an American musical, then this is the perfect book for you. This book digs deep, going through all of the elements of a typical musical and dissecting each one with great, thoughtful detail, including examples of each element from some of the greatest shows of our time. Not only will it make you want to put your favorite Broadway cast albums on repeat, but it’ll make you think differently about the songs found in those musicals and their purpose in relation to the overall show. And don’t worry, it talks about “Hamilton” too.
I’ve always been one to love a good conversation and this book is full of them. Apatow, a comedy god himself, sat down and interviewed a multitude of brilliant people in comedy, including the likes of Chris Rock and Amy Schumer. The conversations run the gamut, from the more expected talk about comedy and what it means to be funny to more unexpected things about life that can get pretty deep. It’s endlessly fascinating and eye-opening and definitely worth your while. (Fun Fact: A few years ago I saw the play “Lucky Guy” starring Tom Hanks on Broadway. Sitting four rows in front of me? Steven Spielberg. Sitting one row in front of him? Judd Apatow. I got to watch them have a conversation during the intermission and I may have cried a little. No biggie.)
If you too are overly invested in the happenings of “Bravo-leberties” (or celebrities from shows on the Bravo TV network) then this is the book for you. (For me, it’s “The Real Housewives of NYC” and the “Million Dollar Listing New York” guys. And the people from “Below Deck.” It’s fine. I don’t have a problem.) “The Andy Cohen Diaries” chronicles a year in the life of Andy Cohen (duh), executive producer of “The Real Housewives” franchise, executive producer and host of “Watch What Happens Live” and basically the face of Bravo. Cohen is a very busy man and this book reflects that, detailing his many days of meetings and tapings of “WWHL,” with a ridiculous amount of celebrity run-ins peppered throughout. There’s enough juicy gossip and dish to keep you intrigued for an entire summer and, if you finished the book and are in need of more, have no fear: Cohen announced earlier this year that a second volume of “The Andy Cohen” diaries, titled “Superficial” will come out on November 15.
So there you have it, folks! Five delightfully fun books to keep you reading this summer, plus one extra because I like you all so much. I hope you enjoy them all!
Any thoughts on the books I listed above? Have any other pop culture-y beach reads to add? Think reading is for tools? Well you’re wrong, reading is awesome and for winners. You’re for tools. Share you’re thoughts in the comments. Unless you’re a tool. Then get the heck outta here. Oh, also?